NEW YORK — The city’s homeless shelter population has hit an all-time high as hundreds of Latin American migrants continue to pour into New York every week as part of a crisis that’s driving the local social safety net to the brink of collapse.
The previous record — 61,415 individuals in city shelters on Jan. 12, 2019 — was first cracked over the weekend, data from the Department of Homeless Services show. On Monday, the latest day for which data is available, the tally reached 62,174.
In addition to setting a new population record, the average length of stay has also surged to all-time highs, with single adults now spending an average of 509 days in shelters, according to city data. Families with kids are, on average, in a shelter even longer — 534 days — and adult families spend an astonishing 855 days in shelters on average, the data shows.
Mayor Adams’ administration has pinned the shelter chaos on an enormous influx of migrants into the city since this spring.
As of this Monday, more than 19,000 Central and South American asylum seekers fleeing violence and economic devastation in their home countries had cycled through the city homeless shelter intake system, according to data from Adams’ office. A majority of them remain in shelters, and more migrants are being sent to the city every day after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.
The administration has scrambled to accommodate the migrants, and is in the process of building a controversial tent camp on Randalls Island to house some. City Council members have lambasted the tent plan as inhumane, and urged Adams to house migrants in vacant hotels instead.
On that note, Adams announced in a Wednesday afternoon statement that the city is opening an emergency relief center for asylum seeking families with children at the upscale Row Hotel in Midtown. It will initially have capacity to house 200 families, who will get access to food, medical care and case work services.
Despite having been at the forefront of calling for migrants to be housed in hotels, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, D-Queens, said she was given no heads up on the latest emergency facility announcement, signaling brewing tensions between the Council and the mayor’s team.
“I was not privy to this information,” she told reporters at City Hall. “It’s never ok when you get no notice. But given the situation that we’re in now — the crisis that we’re in now — we certainly understand that things happen.”
Many migrants in New York were sent to the city by Republican governors, including Texas’ Greg Abbott, as part of a political stunt aimed at criticizing Democratic immigration policies.
The Daily News spotted roughly 60 Venezuelan migrants being dropped off Wednesday morning at the 30th Street intake center in Manhattan — the same location where dozens of people were forced to sleep on floors and benches last month in apparent violation of the right-to-shelter law after the city failed to provide beds for them in a timely manner.
The migrants included teenagers, and several wore clothing emblazoned with the words “Save the Children,” a humanitarian organization that helps asylum seekers with accessing services.
While the migrant crisis is undoubtedly straining the shelter system, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless said some dysfunction can be attributed to “bureaucratic bottlenecks” at city agencies and a drastic slowdown in affordable housing production.
Adams, the advocacy groups said, has not done enough to address the matter.
“Mayor Adams must commit to financing at least 6,000 apartments per year for homeless households and 6,000 apartments per year for households with extremely low incomes. We have urged the administration to take these necessary steps for months,” the groups said in a statement. “Should the city fail to act, the shelter census will only continue to rise even higher and more people will needlessly suffer homelessness.”
In his Wednesday announcement, Adams also affirmed that the tent city on Randalls will “soon” open, and added that his administration is looking into building several more similar facilities in the city.
The mayor has pushed back against criticism over his tent plans by accusing Council members of publicly voicing support for the migrants, but privately expressing reservations about housing them in their districts.
“Some of the loudest that are saying we need to make sure we house asylum seekers have been some of the loudest of saying not on our block,” he said Tuesday before predicting that “every community is going to see asylum seekers” if the crisis continues at its current pace. He declined to name the Council members whose views he’s taking issue with.